Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Understanding autism

Glossary


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Stress

The use of emphasis within speech to mark particular words or phrases. Stress plays a role in communication, and may be atypical in people on the autism spectrum. (See also non-verbal communication.)


Surveys

A survey is a research method in which questionnaire responses are gathered from a large sample of people. These responses are then analysed statistically, to establish trends in those sampled.


Symptoms

Features or characteristics that may indicate a clinical problem or disorder. In some medical conditions (e.g. flu), symptoms may be feelings that the individual experiences and reports to a doctor. In other conditions, such as autism, an individual's symptoms are more likely to be atypical behaviours observed by others such as the individual's parent, or a clinician. Symptoms form the basis for formal diagnostic classifications.


Synapses

A small gap between two neurons where the transmission of signals takes place via neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that cross the gap.


Syndrome

A term denoting a characteristic combination of symptoms, usually assumed to be caused by a specific underlying disorder, even if the causal mechanism is not well understood. Many syndromes are named after the physicians credited with first reporting the association, hence Kanner's syndrome and Asperger syndrome. Autism is now considered more as a spectrum rather than specific syndromes.


Systemising

Systemising is defined by Baron-Cohen as the drive to analyse or construct systems, where a system is any domain that lends itself to rules predicting or explaining how the domain works. The precise scope of this idea is vague: it is usually related to subject matter such as science, engineering and maths, but other domains could also be defined in terms of systems and rules. Baron-Cohen proposes that people with autism have a cognitive profile characterised by a high level of systemising ability, together with limited empathising ability. (See also empathising, Empathy Quotient (EQ) and Systemising Quotient (SQ).)


Systemising Quotient (SQ)

A questionnaire-based measure of systemising devised by Baron-Cohen and colleagues. A person’s overall test score on the SQ is assumed to reflect their ability to systemise. Each member of a population can receive a low, high or average score. On average, females tend to score lowest whereas people on the autism spectrum generally have high scores, although there is also considerable overlap. (See also empathising, Empathising-systemising theory, and systemising)



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